Must Eyes Be All in All?

Posted by on May 30th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

As recently as the late 1990s, Greenwood Press, which is known for its scholarly monographs and reference works, used to publish books with unbelievably staid covers.

Here is an example. It typifies the old-school Greenwood approach.

And another:

And another:

The prevailing Greenwood aesthetic made it clear that what mattered was the interior content. These books practically screamed “expert.” By wearing their seriousness on their sleeve, these high-minded covers implicitly congratulated their readers’ refinement and justified the Press’s steep prices.

More recently, Greenwood, which is owned by Houghton Mifflin Co. but licensed to ABC-CLIO, has taken a different tack. Having once disdained anything but neutral colors and drab layouts, the imprint has embraced the possibilities presented by Photoshop. The cover art for the recently published Encyclopedia of Latin American Theater, for example, has a Dave McKean quality:

And this suggestive cover, for the Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, volume two, seems geared to a much broader readership than merely academic specialists:

In retrospect, it seems all but inevitable that the Press’s latest project, a two-volume encyclopedia on comics and graphic novels, would look something like this:

Having contributed pieces on several topics, including Cages, Peter Bagge and comics scholarship, I will defer to others regarding the books’ merits. From my vantage point, the editor, M. Keith Booker, did a fine job of copyediting the prose and herding the contributors. I haven’t combed through the entries looking for errors, and obviously no one will agree with all of Booker’s decisions regarding what to include and what to leave out. But it seems like a good faith effort.

What I do know is this: if you ask me about the Encyclopedia in a few years, all I’ll remember is the damn cover.

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6 Responses to “Must Eyes Be All in All?”

  1. DerikB says:

    Oh my. Heard a good bit about this book on the Comix Scholars list, but this is the first I’ve seen of the cover. HORRIBLE. Not only is the concept the most clichéd possible cover for a book about comics ever, but it’s also a poorly executed cliché.

    It’s even worse in comparison with the the two covers above, which look like they were done by someone with a clue and a sense of design.

  2. Kent Worcester says:

    I just wonder how the folks who carefully crafted the earlier Greenwood covers feel about the new approach…

  3. Kristy Valenti says:

    I have to respectfully disagree. This is the most cliched cover for a book about comics ever:

    http://cdn.comixology.com/assets/gold2_gncover.jpg

  4. DerikB says:

    I don’t know, Kristy. Your example at least kind of (in a horrible way) implies there are more than just superhero comics in the world… and that there are women. It makes neither case in a good way, but…

  5. Noah Berlatsky says:

    I think Kristy’s example is less cliched, but uglier. So everybody wins?

  6. Kent Worcester says:

    That is one ugly book cover.